3 ways to build an LGBTQ+ inclusive work environment
June 21, 2021
It’s been about a year since the U.S. Supreme Court transformed the lives of millions of LGBTQ+ employees.
In June 2020, the court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act — which prevents employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex — also applies to LGBTQ+ people. In simple terms, no one can be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
LGBTQ+ identification has increased over the years, according to a 2021 Gallup poll, 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as LGBTQ+. And younger generations entering the workforce are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+, with one in six adults in Generation Z (born between 1997–2002) considering themselves queer.
But even those who don’t identify as LGBTQ+ still support their colleagues. Gen Z workers were proven to pass over jobs that don’t offer diverse and inclusive work environments, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But just because the government passed protective legislation, that doesn’t mean the work is over.
All employees need to make an effort to create an inclusive work environment at their organization. To support your coworkers and attract new ones, here are a few specific actions you can take right now to make your workplace more inclusive.
Use inclusive language
In 2019, AirCanada changed its scripted greeting to “welcome everyone” instead of “welcome ladies and gentlemen.” The airline made the change to acknowledge and include other genders. It may seem like a small action, but this language change helps create a more inclusive environment.
At your workplace, you can use inclusive language that puts people first. Words like “salesman” and “chairman” exclude women and non-binary people. Instead, use terms like “salesperson” and “chair” that are gender-neutral.
Try this simple act: instead of starting emails with “Hey, guys!” say something like “Hey, everyone!” or “Hey, team!”
Ask for pronouns
About 1.4 million adults in the United States identify as transgender, meaning their gender identity is different from the gender assigned to them at birth. Since pronouns reflect gender identity, we need to make sure we’re using the correct pronouns for our coworkers.
The easiest way to find out someone’s pronouns is to simply ask, “What are your pronouns?”
If you don’t feel comfortable asking, you can say something like, “Hi, I’m Samantha, and my pronouns are she/her.” This statement allows the other person the option to offer their pronouns if they want. If you use incorrect pronouns for a coworker, apologize and correct yourself.
Remember: Pronouns are personal. Using someone’s correct pronouns is a sign of respect and helps build an inclusive environment at work.
Support LGBTQ+ initiatives
Creating an inclusive environment can’t happen in a week. While using inclusive language and asking for pronouns are immediate actions you can take, but to be an inclusive leader, you also have to make a long-term commitment to inclusion. Supporting LGBTQ+ initiatives is a great place to start. You could:
- Start or join your company’s LGBTQ+ and allyship group(s)
- Participate in Pride organizing this month and continue the work throughout the year
- Attend or help schedule listening sessions to hear from your LGBTQ+ coworkers
- Create informational toolkits to help educate the people you work with
- Offer to contribute to other employee resource group projects or spread the word about them
By supporting LGBTQ+ initiatives, you can help create systemic change in your organization.